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Value versus Cost: How Reputation Impacts Brand Strategy

In today’s climate of “cancel culture” and political correctness that often creates confusion and chaos, brands are right up there with celebrities and political figures when it comes to getting it right. 

Most brands want to be known for their positive attributes and creative strategy, or relatable reputations that don’t disrupt the masses with wild campaigns, weird slogans, or “Why him or her?” celebrity endorsements. Others are gutsy, stepping out of the box and testing the waters with racy ads and radical values. 

Look Out For Curves Ahead

Argue that “safe” is better than “sorry,” but some brands are after more than settling somewhere in the middle. After all, not every brand is “buttoned up” and family-friendly. Shock value is just as valuable as staying on the straight and narrow. 

One could argue that a no-drama reputation equates to a broader audience. No muss, no fuss, allowing for people of all ages and walks of life to support the brand without fear of embarrassment or unease. Not to mention how they’re embraced by the market and their impact on the economy. 

A brand’s reaction and response to the pandemic is a reflection of their morals and morale, either gaining more consumer support for their do-good deeds or struggling since they failed to step up to the plate and pitch in. “In times of crisis, people quickly turn to what they know and trust or they work on market authority and word of mouth,” says Neil Stanhope, founder of brand agency Underscore.

Sticking With It

The brands we’ve learned to rely on have endured thanks to reputations that stand the test of time, and the newbies who follow suit – perhaps with a modern touch – are likely to stay in the public’s good graces by not letting controversy crush their customer base. Risk management is set in place from the get-go, and any potential problems are squashed before brands are buried alive. No scandals or sex, only friendly faces on board to represent brands with class, charisma, or comedy, and a brand strategy that maintains a “PG” tone so grandma won’t gasp and the little ones don’t ask any uncomfortable questions. 

“Good” is valuable, from how consumers spend and share, and when a community is built, it means a booming business. Honesty and wholesomeness are still highly regarded, even in today’s “lay it all out there” environment. 

Brands can get creative, whether that means reading between the lines or lighting up social media. What’s at the heart of the message is what counts, from sincere brand storytelling to sticking to their core motives. 

Standing Up Or Staying Out Of It

Along with COVID, there’s the shaky political climate, serious social issues, endless protests, riots, and related situations which brands either choose to avoid or take a stance. Be it #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, or backing conspiracy theories, brands which cling to a cause are devoted, but daring. Their approach, ethos, and actions either creates a buzz for the better or bites them in the you-know-where. It’s a chance many brands are willing to take, but the liability is high unless they have a savvy PR team ready to smooth things over. What was meant to be a statement of solidarity could quickly cause their reputation to go downhill. And there’s always another brand waiting in the wings to swoop in and steal their thunder. 

On the flip side, audiences love nothing more than to witness action and traction. Uber Eats went up against conservative group, One Million Moms in response to their uproar over a commercial featuring Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness. Uber Eats stood by their creative decision after the group deemed the company’s “LGBTQ-pushing agenda” was out of whack. Social media support was strong for the company, and the commercial still airs as is. 

Reputation Creation And Crash

A few minutes’ worth of swiping through social media is an eye-opener as to how brands preserve and protect their reputation. Whether it’s the of-the-moment celeb they hire to hock their products, the imagery they present to reflect their core values, or the catchphrases and content they put out there to give their brand a “personality.” Depending upon who they’re catering to, the approach is designed to retain who they’ve got and and expand their reach to new heights.  

It’s a fast-moving machine, and what was perfectly fine a moment ago can go wrong in a snap. The “girl-next-door” movie star who was a brand’s money-maker could get caught up in a saucy Hollywood scandal, or a company exec may tweet something stupid at 3AM. There goes a company’s reputation, and building it back up could be quite the mountain to climb.

The Takeaway

No matter the brand’s ideas and ideals, authenticity is key; customers and clients strive for transparency and seek truth. Even when things take a left turn, if there’s a solid base, a great product or service, and brand recognition with a positive or memorable association, a good reputation can keep a brand going strong, no matter the mistakes or messes along the way. Without these essentials, a misstep could bust a brand’s bottom line. 

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